The developer of a valuable Overtown parcel of land is under the gun to put sticks and bricks and foundation into the ground within five months, or risk Miami-Dade County reclaiming the property.
Audrey Edmonson has put the developer, Gatehouse Group of Cos., and the Southeast Overtown/Park West Community Redevelopment Agency on notice to build on the land or give it back.
It would mark the second time in a year that Edmonson has retrieved property owned by the SEOPW CRA because the developer failed to start construction by the deadline.
Edson said officials from both the CRA and Gatehouse approached her about getting extensions on the property.
“I told them absolutely no,” Edmonson said. “This property has been in city for almost 40 years. They were supposed to have built affordable housing or do some type of development and it has never happened.”
“The county I’m sure can do something in less than 40-something years,” she said.
The parcel under scrutiny is called Block 36, which is one of three tracts of land included in a settlement between the city and the county. Under a clause in the legal agreement, construction on that site must start by Nov. 11, Edmonson said, or the land automatically reverts back to the county.
Part of her skepticism, Edmonson said, is the developer hasn’t done enough pre-construction work. “They don’t have the permits. They’re not ready. There’s no way to get through the city’s process in five months.”
CRA officials say not so fast.
Assistant Director Corneilus Shiver said the project is on schedule and is not in danger of being grabbed by the county.
Shiver said the developer is working with the county in the process. “It’s not in jeopardy. There have been various amendments,” Shiver said. “The developer is in compliance. By all indications they will meet the deadline.”
He pointed to a community meeting that Gatehouse officials held with residents last week at the Overtown Performing Arts Center. They discussed what residents wanted to see in the development, called the Promenade at the Lyric, a two-story residential and commercial office space.
Nick Inamdar, a vice president with Gatehouse, said the company hopes to break ground in November, before the cutoff date. “The plan is to build a 55,000-square- foot commercial development. The ground floor would be 27,500 square feet of retail space.” He estimates that construction would last about 18 months.
Inamdar said Gatehouse is known in the area. The company developed the nearby Plaza at the Lyric apartments, which is 156 units of affordable housing adjacent to the Lyric Theater.
The intergovernmental land agreement dates back to a settlement in 2003 between the city and county over three parcels that were granted to the CRA for development to remove slum and blight. The parcels were Block 36, Block 45 and Block 56.
The agreement stipulated that Blocks 45 and 56 be developed to preserve the history and character of Overtown, while incorporating the theme of “live, work and play” to the fullest extent possible.
The agreement also called for development of a retail component of at least 150,000 square feet of retail, office hotel or institutional space in the area.
Block 56 was sold to All Aboard Florida, and is under construction with a garage and office spaces. Block 45 reverted to the county when developer R. Donahue Peebles’ Overtown Gateway Partners abruptly halted a deal to build a hotel with retail shops and apartments. Some of the units were to be affordable.
CRA officials attempted to negotiate to get the land back, but the county refused.
Edmonson said the county soon will put the parcel out for bid. She’s hoping for a range of interesting ideas, notably ones that represent historic Overtown.
“They can come out with their idea of what should go there. I’m asking for something that would fit in with what’s there, like a Bahamian-type theme,” she said. “Something that would fit into the Overtown scheme. We’re looking for something for live, work and play.”